The COVID-19 pandemic has kept our children away from the things they love for a long time, including camp, school, and sports. With a steady stream of vaccinations and promising health news on the horizon, you may be evaluating the possibility of getting your child back to in-person activities in the not too distant future. As you start thinking about what your child will need in order to return to the things they love, Summit Health offers the following guidance
Although your child may be healthy, many camps (day and sleep away) require proof of a complete physical before a child is allowed to start. “Getting your child a pre-camp physical is a proactive step toward addressing any unforeseen health issues,” says Dr. Marnie Cambria Dardanello Summit Health pediatrician. Although this may seem like a nuisance, it is beneficial not only for your child, but for other camp goers as well as camp counselors.
During a camp physical, your child’s provider will:
- Review their medical history and check for pre-existing and possible new conditions
- Review all medications and dietary supplements he or she may be taking
- Conduct a general physical exam, which will include a check of the ears, eyes, nose, throat, heart, lungs, and abdomen
- Go over immunization history to ensure your child is up to date on shots
Medications While at Camp
Remember, it is important that your child stick to their medication routine. “Do not wait to talk to your child’s provider about their medication for camp,” says Dr. Cambria Dardanello. “Some sleep away camps require that prescriptions be sent to a nearby pharmacy to dispense, and your child’s provider will need to sign off on this.” The provider will also need to approve any over-the-counter medications your child can have while away at camp.
COVID-19 and Camp
Some camps may require a negative PCR test. If your child’s camp has indicated the need for COVID-19 testing before attendance, plan to schedule testing at least five days before the start of camp to allow ample time for processing.
Most states, including New Jersey, require that kids receive sports clearance before they can start a new school sport or begin a new competitive season. A sports physical, or pre-participation physical examination (PPE), focuses on reviewing your child’s current health status and fitness level, as well as medical history to determine whether it’s safe for your child to participate in a certain sport.
A sports physical may identify an issue that may require additional care before play. For example, if your child has frequent asthma attacks, a doctor might be able to prescribe a different type of inhaler or adjust the dosage so that your child can breathe easier when they run. Your child’s doctor may even provide good training tips and ideas for avoiding injuries. Additionally, sports physicals can spark important conversations about preventive screenings and proper nutrition to keep young athletes fueled.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that clearance for sports participation occur during the annual well visit if possible. However, in the event of an injury or concussion, a separate sports clearance exam may be required. A sports clearance must be within one year of a physical exam, so it’s important to make sure your child’s annual well visit is up to date.
COVID-19 and Sports
The pandemic has changed many aspects of life, including sports. Your child’s provider can properly guide you through safety measures such as masking and social distancing.
Mask Adherence During Sports
Team sports and activities can contribute to the spread of COVID-19, but facial masks can help keep both adults and kids safe. They do not affect athletic performance. In fact, research shows that respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and time of exhaustion are not significantly impacted by wearing a mask during a moderate to strenuous workout. “Kids can be active and wear a mask,” says Dr. Cambria Dardanello.
If your child has had COVID-19, please call their pediatrician to see if in-office visit is necessary before sports participation. For their health and safety, it is critically important that he or she be properly evaluated before starting a sport.
What does a sports physical consist of?
There are two parts to a sports physical: a review of medical history and a complete physical exam.
The medical history portion includes review of:
- serious illnesses among family members
- illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, or epilepsy
- previous hospitalizations or surgeries
- allergies (to insect bites, for example)
- past injuries (including concussions, sprains, or bone fractures)
- history of passing out, dizziness, chest pain, or trouble breathing during exercise
- any medications
The complete medical exam includes:
- COVID-19 test (both rapid antigen and COVID-19 PCR tests can be conducted in the office if the patient is symptomatic or a test is required by the camp or school; note many camps are requiring PCR tests prior to entry.)
- Check of height, weight, and vitals
- Vision test
- Check of exercise abilities (i.e. respiratory strength)
- Check of heart (cardiac clearance), lungs, abdomen, ears, nose, and throat
- Check of neurological and muscular function: posture, joints, flexibility, reflexes, and strength
Dr. Cambria Dardanello reiterates, “The ultimate goal of the sports physical is to make sure your child is safe while playing sports. If your child doesn't get approval from the doctor right away, it doesn’t mean they are on the sidelines for good, and it's unlikely they'll be disqualified from playing sports altogether.” Your child may be referred to a specialist such as a cardiologist or pulmonologist who can offer suggestions or treatment before the sports season begins to help decrease their risk of harm or injury and to ensure they are able to perform to the best of their ability.
Although many children won’t be heading back to the classrooms full time until possibly the fall, now is the time to make sure they meet all health requirements via the all-important annual physical. An annual physical not only focuses on the physical health of your child, but also the developmental, emotional, and social aspects of their health. Your child’s pediatrician will focus on the overall health of your child by performing a complete physical examination and conducting a full assessment of your child’s cognitive and social milestones. This time may also be used to discuss important topics related to drugs and alcohol, peer pressure, healthy relationships, and puberty. A pediatrician can also talk to younger children about the emotional upheaval of returning to a school setting and tips for handling separation anxiety, which has become very common.
Many daycares also require a health form for admittance, and some children may need to catch up on missed vaccines. You can refer to the Summary of NJ Child Care/Preschool Immunization Requirements put out by the New Jersey Department of Public Health.
Patient Forms for Return to School, Camp, and Sports
Forms are critically important because a provider reviews and signs all forms in order to attest that there are no health factors that may put a child or other children at risk. The office will let you know which forms will be needed based on appointment type.
Parents should complete the medical history questions prior to coming in for the exam. Be sure to indicate if your child has previously been infected with COVID-19.
Patients can check the patient portal and conveniently pull up printable forms approximately two weeks after the form is submitted.
Kids and COVID-19 Vaccination
Keeping your child on schedule with vaccinations is important. Parents should be familiar with the recommended immunization schedule and make sure their child is up to date. With the COVID-19 vaccination now available for patients 16 and older, and clinical trials to ensure safety and effectiveness in younger populations underway, the list of important immunizations has grown. Bear in mind that some childhood vaccines may be delayed while administering complete doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Your child’s pediatrician can guide you on timing.
All eligible individuals who are established Summit Health patients can book an appointment for the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine by calling their provider’s office.